Stop, Look and Listen

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.is technology managing them? What about innovation? What about marketing? As organizations continue to get flatter and flatter, we continue to put more and more pressure on the few left in middle management. Its not just the personnel either. That may be the easy part. Now, we are being faced with everyone becoming customer facing, the depth of customer penetration within in the ranks is increasing at a rapid wait. The one answer that so many of us fallback to is technology. And, that is also changing at a rapid rate. So what does a manager have to do? This is a transcription of a podcast with Terri Griffith, author of The Plugged-In Manager. The cornerstone of Dr. Griffiths work is an easy-to-understand framework for plugging in, explained through three core practices.

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    Stop, Look, Listen Guest was Terri Griffith

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    Terri Griffith in her book The Plugged-In Manager describes an easy-to-understand framework for plugging in, explained through three core practices:

    1. Stop-Look-Listen: What do your data say? What do you already know that will help you with this project?

    2. Mixing: How do you balance your available resources? 3. Sharing: How can you achieve better results by

    integrating your choices with other team members?

    About: Terri Griffith, Ph.D. helps people and organizations work with technology. As a Professor of Management at Santa Clara University (Silicon Valley), Terri helps mix together the technology of work (everything from tele-presence to the size and type of tools a crew would use to build a fence), the way we organize to do this work (virtual

    teams, collaborative leadership, hiring and pay plans), and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people we work with.

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    Transcription of Podcast

    Joe Dager: Welcome everyone. This is Joe Dager the host of Buiness901 podcast. With me today is Terri Griffith. She is a professor at Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business and author of the newly published book The Plugged-In Manager. Terri is more than a professor, she is a student on how we mix together the technology of work, the way we organize to do this work and the knowledge skills and the abilities of the people we work with. I would like to welcome Terri and with that said, is that what The Plugged-In Manager is all about? Terri Griffith: The Plugged-In Manager is about how to make use of all the resources you

    have at your disposal. I think many of us tend to focus on the one thing were good at. I try to present The Plugged-In Manager as a way to say, our world is made up of people, technology, tools and organizational practices, lets use all three. Then as you think about using all three, how do you put those together in some kind of systematic way. Joe: I notice when I was preparing that youve been doing virtual distributed collaborations since 1984. Not to date you at all, but wow, can you maybe touch upon what was even going on in distributive collaboration back then.

    Terri: Absolutely and, by the way, I was not the first. There were other people out there ahead of me. Weve been thinking about these issues because teams want to find their

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    best members and sometimes their best members just cant be inside those organizational walls. The ideas of telecommuting were being talked about in 1984. The big issue were how can I trust somebody whom I cant see. That actually pushed me to look at what we were calling than computer monitoring. Most managers were saying there is no way; Im going to let you work outside my organizations wall if I cant see you in some way. That was not taken well; we had people, lobbyist, pushing for laws against it. Imagine that, pushing for laws against something in the collaboration space. The issue is now, were just sending out what were doing, and we want people to know what were doing. We know, theyre going to then turnaround and help us get that task done in many cases. Back in 1984, it was a situation of trust and employees having to beg to be able to do this kind of work practice. Now, youve got the US government saying you have to have a telecommuting plan. We werent so much looking at distributed teams; it was more about individual work being done outside the organizations walls. Now things have changed dramatically, and its an exciting time for me. Joe: What carried over from that time period? What has stayed with us? Terri: The idea that we can work all the time, for better or for worse. If there is some kind of connection that we would have gotten when we were sitting in an office next door to the person if there is some kind of connection we can make so that people still know what it is were doing. Such as when is it we are going to get a piece of a project done and how somebody elses piece is then going to fit in with that. So kind of maintaining that, who knows what, who needs what information and how were going to coordinate once we have

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    all that together. Those things were absolutely necessary in the early 80s, and theyre absolutely necessary now. The beautiful thing is the technology is catching up with our needs.

    Joe: Well, I have to compliment you because youve packed a lot of information into a book and into what I would consider an easy read. This is meant as a compliment. There is a lot of information, but you can use it as an airplane book. Terri: I think you can and that was the goal, or the editing teams goal. We wanted to make sure that this book was accessible to everybody and the ideas in there are based on things that weve been studying and have good data, to support since the 50s. This information has been out there but its been out there in ways that were not accessible, and thats always been kind of frustration for me. We know all these wonderful things, why arent they getting used. I think its because of the terms we were using and the way that it was being taught. The way that we were trying to teach it just wasnt singing to folks. My goal was certainly to find a way to talk about these ideas that we know are so important but in a way that people can easily both use and share with their team and then hopefully see it diffuse throughout the organization. Joe: Who is the book meant for? Terri: Im going to say this and you are going to say thats no focus. I wanted to make it valuable for individual contributors, team members, managers and then the executives. The third practice, there are three practices in The Plugged-In Manager, is sharing. My

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    justification for pushing that as an important practice is if Im doing it thats good for me. If Im doing it inside my team, thats probably helping my team in some way. If everybody understands why Im doing things the way, then theyre going to come along and help. Theyre not going to be questioning why were doing it in this particular way So, we can be working together to find a good way to do the work we need. If you have it at the executive level, theyre going to be thinking about what kind of resources can I give to my people. Theyre going to be good at the first practice which is stop, look, listen and theyre going to be good at the mixing piece which is a second practice and so sharing really amplifies the other two. Joe: Is it like developing a best practice?

    Terri: Best practices are getting a lot of bad press these days. So, I will stay away from that. Its a way of thinking; its a discipline around how to approach these things. Would you mind if I go through the three practices in? Joe: No, not at all. Terri: That will give us a common background. The first practice of a Plugged-In Manager is to stop, look, and listen. Like a kid learning to cross the street, you dont want to get hit by a truck, and weve all been hit by trucks in organizations. Maybe, if we take a step back and we say, OK, just for the moment, Im not going to say I have to have that great new shiny piece of technology. I dont have to follow what my colleagues did and implement this new practice or hire this one person or this one person is going to save me. Thats not

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    the way to think about it. Lets stop and look and say, alright, my situation is this; the goals I need are that, my opportunities in terms of my people, my technology and my practices are these. Im going to stop and look and look at those opportunities and then once I do make a choice that first step, now Im going to listen and see how thats going. It ties back in nicely to thinking about using evidence in your work, thinking about using data in your work but stop, look, listen is the first practice. The second practice is this idea of mixing and saying; Ive seen what my options are in terms of my people, my technology tools, and my organizational practice. Sometimes you want to use them in relatively equal power positions. Other times it may be people focused change we need or process focused change or the technology might be the lead, but Im going to look to how to support that decision with the other two. I tell my students, you can never change just one thing. Typically you dont want to change everything all at once, but you want to make small moves and listen for the outcome. Make sure those small moves cover those three dimensions at least in terms of how youve considered how they work together. The third practice is this idea of sharing because as we share other people just come along and help or, find new ways for us to leverage our approach a little bit better. You get more help pushing that boulder up the hill. Joe: I like the three different things. I look at is a learning cycle is what youre explaining

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    and how to distribute that learning to others. Is that a fair summation of it? Terri: I would just add learning and action. I absolutely see that connection back to learning. Both formal and informal learning as we do our work inside an organization. At

    the same time is the focus on action. Given that I know these things, what is it that Im actually going to do and how am I going to do it in a way that will increase its likelihood of success. Most organizational change implementations dont work. They dont work in the way that we hope they would. When we set out a business plan for how were going to do something, and this is coming from lots of research, its not because the idea was a bad idea. Its because we didnt implement it effectively and usually what that means is that somebody used the silver bullet strategy. All of us have bought that cool technology that was going to solve all my problems. Weve been tracking this, I guess for at least 50 years; maybe its going on 60 now. That doesnt work across, tons of different fields, weve seen that it doesnt work, and you need to take this more systematic approach that looks at the full system. That system is the people, the technology and the process. If we just get people to stop long enough to do that and it can be something as easy as Im putting together my meeting agenda, what do I need people to bring to this meeting? Who is coming? So thats people part. What I need them to bring and how were going to be communicating in this thing. Is this going to be face to face which I think of as the technology? And to be face to face, am I going to be doing a presentation? How am I going to get the notes, taking and making them available to others? How am I going to do that? If you just sort of count off the three issues, I think were going to find, we do a much better job and dont get

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    surprised as much. Joe: Is it a how to book or a textbook type?

    Terri: I think its more a how to. I think the first part of the book explains these ideas, talks about why its even more important today than it might have been a few years back. The next parts are the working part, and they say, well thats great but how am I going to do this? How am I going to mix these things together? I tried to talk about it in a couple of different ways, we speak to different pieces of the audience, and you think about a great chef. A great chef doesnt just follow a cookbook. If you were a pure how to, it would look more like a cookbook, and it doesnt do that. Instead it says, here are your basic ingredients, here are your basic methods and techniques and now here is a tool to help you sort out your own situation and think about how to apply it for you. It does have a checklist, and it does have a discussion about here is what youre going to do next. So, how to yes, but more a how to, that expects you to become that good chef. Follow the cookbook, maybe the first time, do it exactly that way, but the next time start thinking about my settings are not exactly the same. The guests that Im inviting to dinner arent exactly like those guests. Im going to make some adjustments here. You dont want a book thats going to say, here is this completely new thing you have to learn how to do because thats hard to expect people to do in todays crazy environment.

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    Instead, I draw on the ideas of negotiation. Even if were not a great negotiator, we at least understand the different steps. I talk about the mixing process, as being a negotiation amongst the stakeholders youre trying to draw in to your work and say, I need to know who my stakeholders are, and I need to know what the issues are on the table

    and are those issues going to be across the three dimensions of people, technology and process. What are the possible outcomes? It forces you to sort of sit back and do the stop, look, listen piece. Sit back and say, well, Im probably doing it this way but what else could I be doing? So think about those different options underneath each issue and then let it roll out like a negotiation which again brings other people into the process and theyre going to help you, more heads are better than one. Theyre going to help you identify things that might be road blocks, people you need to be engaging, issues inside the organization or with your customers and clients that you need to bring into the mix. It seems like negotiation gets us well into the whole process of mixing. So if youve ever done a negotiation before or even watched one on TV, youve got the basic steps down. Joe: With this process using the three key practices you kind of self-organize the teams, the principles around them and who you need within the team and then sharing outside the team. You describe a nice format for doing that. Terri: I think that team researchers are going to say this makes sense. I think the Lean crowd, the Agile crowd, I think, all those folks are going to see parallels to what theyre trying to do in their specific environment and I see that as great.

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    Joe: When I looked at the Plugged-In Manager, my first instincts were that it was another social media book telling me how to use each tool and how to use all this technology to make a better team. Its more than that, isnt it? Terri: It is, and I admit it, I open with the Facebook example because, thats a huge question a lot of people have today. That is not the main focus. Its any kind of technology tool. Everything from whats the architecture inside a hospital cardiac care unit. The architecture can actually be the technology. When I talk about it, I talk about being able to build a fence and those different kinds of posthole diggers that you might have to make a choice about depending on how strong the team members are and what their skill sets are. I think about technology broadly, and social media just happens to be the latest big

    question on the table. Joe: How do companies hinder this type of managerial aspect or Plugged-In Manager from functioning? Terri: Well, the phrase I hear used a lot is they parachuted this new thing in. Imagine if, an executive goes off to a conference and they see an amazing presentation of a particular technology tool. They come back, and Im thinking actually, Im going back quite a way here when Lotus Notes first came out and presidents of companies, CEOs go to conferences and theyll come back and they would say, Wow, this thing is amazing. Were actually going to know who knows what and be able to find that information. Well, thats true if youve managed the people, the technology tool of Lotus Notes itself and the

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    organizations process. What often happened is they install Lotus Notes. I have this vision, but Im sure it wasnt true, but the vision Ive always had was then they sat there, and they looked at it and waited for it to do something. Thats just not how organizations work. So the organizations that did get that amazing value that was part of that sales proposition were the ones who said, Wow, this Lotus Notes thing is very powerful. Here are some areas that I know we can get some great value out of it. Im going to have to get some training. Im going to have to make sure that I get people time in their day to participate with this, and Im going to have to make sure that other people are aware that it exists. So they can go get that value from it.

    Cases where the organization was thoughtful and practice Plugged-In Management even though it wasnt called that practiced it nonetheless. Those companies got huge value out of a Lotus Notes. The companies where senior executive comes in, says go buy this now, install it and then it was kind of hands off after that. Those were very frustrated folks and used it as an e-bill system. Joe: What does a company need to do to make a manager become Plugged-In? Terri: Well, first of all they must read the book. I think reading the book; talking about the ideas and then trying it out on a particular issue and again if something is simple as how were going to run this next meeting? A colleague of mine, Nilofer Merchant, who has a lovely book called The New How, was just talking and writing on her blog about meetings

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    and the problems with meetings. I write about meetings in the book and Ive blogged about the problems with meetings and certainly, we think about stand up meetings and things like that is being solutions to some meeting problems. So this idea, we can find solutions around something that we do all the time, meetings apply it there.

    We already had a bad meeting probably the last week, so, if we have another bad one, its not going to kill the company, but maybe well have a great one and well have a great one just because weve worked with all three dimensions and we thought about it in that mix and negotiated a new organizational approach that got us some value. Now Im going to want to try it on something thats a little bit more important than just that one single meeting. I think making people aware of the approach is a great first step

    and then trying it out, taking that small first step and then listening. Because actually that first practice just stop, look, listen, listen to see how it worked and then make some adjustments and try it again on the next thing. If thats done in a kind of proactive and visible way which is back to the shared idea, the third practice of being plugged-in. If its done in a public way than other people can say, Oh, yeah, it kind of worked out well for them. Let me try it over here. Just brings folks along. I dont see people sort of setting down and going, were going to implement plugged-in management, and I dont think that would actually be consistent with what were talking about. But making people aware of the ideas and then giving them the opportunity to take the small steps and get feedback and let it diffuse as they see successes.

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    Joe: I think it coincides with Lean. Lean is a learn by doing approach. Its about find one problem and solve one problem. It is not about making this a revolution.

    Terri: Exactly revolutions are hard to manage. We can just see around the world today. Exactly, when I talk about sharing, when I talk about how you put this in practice. I kind of push people away from a formal training approach. Some formal training is great. Get the ideas out on the table and provide people that scaffold to build upon. After that, I talk more about ideas of informal learning and letting people have the opportunity to try something and see if it works or see if it was a mistake and make those adjustments. I do think its, exactly in line with Lean approaches.

    Joe: Now, one of the things I hear about in training when we start talking about technology and social media and I always kind of smile when I see it, even Jack Welsh advised everybody to go get a kid to be a mentor. Can we get plugged-in by getting someone younger to show us how to get plugged-in? Terri: Thats a very interesting observation because this is one case where typically the less experience you have, the less likely youre to be plugged-in. You may get the technology piece right. You may have that skills set absolutely, and so if Im the plugged-in person, I may say, well, I dont get this technology. Im going to get that younger person who may know that technology better than I do. That would be plugged-in on my part, but I havent found that Gen Y or the like comes to

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    this naturally. I think its just as hard for them as it is for us. Most of the plugged-in managers Ive tracked down are people who have had pretty diverse jobs throughout their careers either formal jobs or cases where they had diverse experience, life experience in some way and its just harder for people with less experience to get there fast. I do close the book with a fellow who is still in his 20s, and he has a diverse perspective, this is Tad Milbourn of Intuit. He has gotten a diverse perspective that he told me his life story at one point, and it was the way he thought about things, the way he thought about things as he was growing up. What he did as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and then coming into Intuit. He was just prepped for what then Intuit provided him in terms of resources, the technology resources and the organizational resources. So he was ready for it and took full advantage, but he is kind of the rarity in the folks I talk to.

    Instead, theyve had multiple jobs, multiple approaches to their career and then at some point they went, Oh, I guess what Im doing each time when Im successful is Im worried about the people piece, Im worried about the technology piece, and Im worried about that organizational process component. How am I going to put these things together? Some time, it was in the middle of the giant project, and they said, Wow if I dont get all these three dimensions working together, this thing isnt going to work but it took them, putting themselves in a lot of different situations to come to that realization. That would be a great question. If I present these ideas in some kind of basic way to folks with tons of experience vs. folks without so much experience. Who is going to get it first? I dont know the answer to that question.

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    Joe: One of the things you mentioned right there is about resources and now we seem to have all the resources in the world, we just need to Google it. Why is it difficult for managers to use them all or maybe its more the question is to choose which one to use? Terri: As I think about the resources we have. We have access to facts and to a certain degree we have access to people with different kinds of expertise. I dont know that the manager themselves feel like theyre living in a resource rich environment. I think they think theyre constrained and what constraints and pressure due to the human thinking process it forces to focus. It take this discipline to kind of break out of that desire to be pinpoint focused on a certain thing because then we dont think creatively, we dont think about the options, we dont think, we dont stop, look, listen, right thats first practice. People are under more pressure because maybe theyre working with fewer people in the organization, theyre more concerned about losing their own job. They get in that constrained mode. Now the threat makes them more rigid. What were saying here is, no you cant be rigid, every situation is a different and so you want take the moment, give yourself that moment to see what your real situation is. I would say mostly and just right now, they feel themselves in a threat situation, and weve got to fight against being rigid and doing it the way weve always done it in the past. Joe: But stop, look, listen is the focusing step isnt it? Terri: Well, its a focusing step that includes a broad look. So Im going to stop, and Im

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    going to force myself to look across those three dimensions and not just allow myself to dive in because, we know thats what people do. If we put in any kind of stressful situation, theyre going to do it; theyve already done in the past. Most of us can do better, so I dont know that I want to do exactly what I did in the past. It maybe a safe answer, but its not going to give me a great answer. So to stop, look, listen is that moment of reflection where you cast your view a little bit more broadly than you might have under any other kind of setting, give yourself that one moment and as I think about a meeting that could be five minutes. It doesnt have to be, Oh, were going to do some giant review process. Its going to take us three weeks but, just take that one step, what else could I be doing besides what Ive done in the past across those three dimensions because it forces yourself to think outside

    what might be your comfort zone if youre an IT person or youre a leadership expert or something like that. Think across those three dimensions. Figure out you dont have all the answers. Youve got to bring somebody in and work those things together into some kind of new way of doing things and see if it was actually better or not. Joe: Can you summarize for me what a Plugged-In Manager is and why are they different? Terri: A Plugged-In Manager is someone with the discipline to sit back before they make a move and look across three dimensions theyre always going to think about the people, whom I have access to, what do they know, what are their motivations. Think about the technology tools they have or access too but theyre also going to be thinking. OK, given the people I have, how much training might I need to use that particular tool? Are they

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    ready for that one or we going to have to do something else? How is this going to fit into the organizational practice piece? Is it going to be something that people are concerned about? Is it going to be something that has political issues? Is it going to flow easily in the practices we already have or is this going to require a shift in some of our organizational

    practices and how much trouble is that going to be and so, how am I going to set the dials? Plugged-in managers are always thinking about how might I adjust those dials across those three dimensions in a way thats going to make them just work together a little bit better. Theyre looking for that support across the three dimensions, and theyre thinking about how am I going to mix them together in some really nice way and then the most plugged-in managers are then also thinking aloud so other people can see them go through this

    process. Theyre engaging other folks; maybe again theyre an expert in the technology side or the leadership side. So theyre going in and getting their counterpart to help them out a little bit, and theyre sharing this so that the whole organization can benefit in the long run. When I find a plugged-in manager, its someone who in describing something they did, is going to hit on those three dimensions, and its going to tell me about the decision process they went through to get into the solution that they found. Thats how I scan blogs, I scan books, I talk to people at conferences about, who do you know, who has shown this ability and, can you give me an example of where it worked out either well for them or not so well or show me a failure and was that failure because they only were trying to manage with one of the three dimensions.

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    Joe: It sounds very close to that role in Lean of servant leadership that we were looking at how to manage your resources for my team to make it all work. Terri: Completely agree. I think were kind of doing a shared mind thing here. Joe: Is there something you would like to add that maybe I didnt ask? Terri: Take the first step, stop, look, listen and then take that first step in an environment thats going to let you see how it works and let you see if youre getting something better than you got in the past, test it out and if it works, please let me know and if it doesnt work, let me know that too. Im very interested in how people come to apply it given the way its been described, and Im absolutely always on the lookout for new positive examples and negative examples. So if you come across a Plugged-In Manager, please send me their name. Joe: How can someone contact you or learn more about the book? Terri: I keep a pretty active blog and website at Terrigriffith.com, T-E-R-R-I-G-R-I-F-F-I-T-H.com and happy to answer questions there. Joe: I would like to thank you very much. This podcast will be available in the Business901 iTunes store and Business901 website. So thanks again Terri. Terri: Thank you.

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    Joseph T. Dager

    Business901

    Phone: 260-918-0438

    Skype: Biz901

    Fax: 260-818-2022

    Email: jtdager@business901.com

    Website: http://www.business901.com

    Twitter: @business901

    Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He takes his process thinking of over thirty years in marketing within a wide variety of industries and applies it through Lean Marketing and Lean Service Design.

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